The Hermit Of St Kilda

A sturgeon in a muddy bath
Atop one wayward cleit-bound path,

A bunion-coloured troubled moon,
Swallowed by his bleak lagoon;

Bothy ghosts with bridal sedge,
Perilous steeper western edge.

He floated on a flotsam-skiff
Disembarked, in gloaming mist,

Footsteps in her foaming surf
Winds were purging sands and turf;

He knelt, and kneeling blessed,
Wilder elements would contest,

Existence, akin to snow still falling
Intrinsically, all thoughts appalling.

An aching storm then passing through
Shook the eyes in that lagoon,

Lugubrious eyes, ugly too,
All the things he never knew.

Dead-way eyes, and deadly too,
For all who looked within the gloom;

Rising above, more than self,
Prayed upon a skerry shelf,

While sturgeon, eel and salmon fled
Back to where the city bled.

Amentiferous

Today is the same day
As yesterday,
And every day preceding too.
The weather may change –
The same bleeds tomorrow –
And slowly then, a view.
A skinny, catkinny frost,
All futures somewhat like
Frozen carp in a cube,
Suspended, inanimate
Within a lake unthawed;
A whitening sun ignored,
Bleaker the sky, and blanched,
Inscrutable eyes widely forlorn –
A stupefied state –
So too the perch,
The grayling and the dace.
And so too, yes, the sky,
White as a severed heron’s chest,
White as survival and yet
Still agonisingly fruitless,
I pack up my taxonomies,
Slowly headed for home
In my exposed, irrevocable chest.

Awdl I Wraig Pysgotwr

Cultivating seven lemon leaves of love,
She keeps their citrussy pips
For infusing our elevenses
And drizzle cake for afterwards,
Returning from the morning trip
Aboard my pre-dawn sea-breeze skip
Amid ululating waves, gigantic
Monoliths to rage and grief,
To shower away all memories
Of tarpaulin, and bountiful cod
I sell to a fishmongers’ market,
Fresh are the fish they sell
For a clamouring townsfolk
On beds of mushy peas
And curried chips.

From my time at middle-sea
My lips are akin to potato skins
Abandoned in a frozen field
After a squad of soldiers’ stampeded
Over muddy Flanders and Frisia;
I have rugged Stegosaurus toes
And a cranium bursting with
Plains of great grey
Oppressive clouds,
I am sometimes gruff
And sometimes I say nothing for days,
For who would converse
With mizzle-clouds and fish
And fog?

Yet despite these lesser facets
She is my anchor and my harbour –
Two states of material being –
A qubit, a Schrödinger love.
She is the single numeric code
For those thousands of padlocks
Encircling my rusty tortoiseshell heart;
She is both trusted compass and direction,
And when I set course
On a shipful of bones
For snowy Arctic bays and coves,
She returns me slowly, slowly,
Patiently home for cake and tea –
A blend with seven lemon leaves.


N.B The title is Welsh, ‘Ode To A Fisherman’s Wife’. I noticed the closeness to the Cornish word for Fisherman – pyskador – but I was not certain that I could approximate the Cornish title closely enough.

Alaska

A kettle appeared in my hand
From nowhere,
And the entire land
Became orange and broken.
I remember you,
Spearer of white salmon,
Your heretical parents –
Those academic navel gazers –
Abandoned you to delusions
And a gnawing consumption.
No wonder you moved to Alaska,
This spoke nothing of you,
Glued to the hues
Of forest and tundra,
Of numberless lumbering
Grizzlies, lunar phases
Unencumbered behind secret
Nictitating eyelids,
And everything of them,
His head between a women’s legs
And hers wedged into an oven.
Sometimes, sub-arctic skies
Seemed so vast, so all-consuming,
Your bruised soul could slip
Off a precipice and
Into the basalt rubble,
And that, of course,
In time,
Is exactly what you did,
Standing in those atrocious
Foaming rapids, in galoshes,
The rod appeared in your hand
Just like this whistling kettle,
Akin to the miraculous
Echoes of odourless thought,
And in that moment perhaps
You felt alive so clearly,
So attuned to the hubris
That all of a sudden
You died, too.
You forgot how to swim
As your limbs metamorphically
Merged with sockeyes
And piny yellowfin.
The rifle appeared in your hand,
Also from nowhere.

No poet saved the world
Through writing alone,
Yet they should not have
Ever suggested
That you could.

So Long The Ceasefire

My head is a bread bin
Without any bread,
Where loaves were stored
Mould’s sprawling instead.

My body a trawler
With no herring for kippers;
Caught by a storm,
Overboard skippers,
Returning to port
With no smoke for a dinner.

My soul a cathedral
Burned for a cause,
So long the ceasefire,
Bombs did not pause.

Finally, my mind has vacated,
My body, and my will;
Standing at a bus stop crying,
Placated by the thrill.

Halcyon

Is there any fabled,
Unfathomable existence
More at one
With homely surroundings
Than fish flowing through
A river, gills and mouth
And fisher-spirits open
To planetary potentates
And every heavenly potential
Imbued in bluebottle djinn
And a sleeping
Grasshopper’s eye,
Under clear midnight skies,
A billion stars,
Spleen and queenly heart
And inner canals
Microcosms
Of wishful organisms
Larger and lesser
And dimmer
By far.

A kingfisher dreamt this,
Years ago,
Near coastal roads
In Zanzibar.


Padlock Lake

I’ve fed dead fish
At Padlock Lake,
Five miles above
An old sluice gate.

Over yon way,
Beyond game-sedge,
A calf eats hay
At Ghost Farm’s edge;

I knew, like you,
From early ages
Through hardship and harm,
Through old Autumn breezes

Cold as a fist,
This inability to wish,
We dreamt of byres and
Troughs instead.

We pass by a polite
Chinese scientist
With one arm
And owls woven

On grey lapels.
Yon farmer exists
In a caravan balancing
Precariously

On rusting teeth.
Brambles and briar
Nettles and dock,
A solitary robin,

Red from the cross,
Her songs could span
An albatross, in flight,
Over oceans of moss.

Years later
I found a certain haven,
Pulling those fish ribs
From a peaty bog,

Not far from where
They found a body within
A concrete outflow pipe,
Naked, leaking, exposed.

Sometimes even gods
Of parks and lakes
Make human-seeming
Basic mistakes.

Piscatorial

Don’t rely on me, little fish,
I’ll only let you down;
I am cursed within a wish
To wear your funeral gown.

Peering through the water,
Turbid there, and brown;
You wanted me for a daughter,
Forgetting how I drown.

Innocent eyes ignoring
As my spear struck down,
My visage clearly imploring,
Fishbones in my crown.

The last late catch did bloat,
I had to purge myself;
Derelict, a dampening boat,
An underwater schismed shelf.

Don’t rely on me, little fish,
I’ve seen the seaweed’s truth;
I’ll be served with a citrus dish,
Pierced by a piscine tooth.

Soul Lash (or, Futility)

Sensing impermanence
In my self,
The essence
In the artifice
In the candle-flame
Of the wick
Where my older soul resides,
Well, in that distant place,
My soul lashed out
And slowly flapped
Until lamely she
Gasped one last name,
One last race to breathe,
Akin to a dull fish in shallows
Berating the sands and mudflats,
Berating that constant urge
Of nearby waters to flee
Scenes of my existence
And surge downstream
Away from me,
Though once my scales
Shone like polished heraldry
In folds of
Rainbow-golds
Shimmering
Iridescently.